Your essential update on health for the week.

HSJ Catch Up

This weekly email gives HSJ subscribers a vital update on the biggest stories from the last week in health. If you have been out of the office or otherwise just too busy to keep up, HSJ Catch Up will ensure you are still in the know.

NHS alert over human waste stockpiling

Up to 50 trusts are on standby to implement contingency plans for their waste disposal after a major contractor was found to be stockpiling human body parts and dangerous waste.

Healthcare Environment Services faces enforcement action from the government after failing to dispose off waste transported from NHS hospitals in accordance with regulatory timeframes.

In July, inspectors from the Environment Agency found the company was storing 350 tonnes of waste, including amputated limbs, infectious liquids, cytotoxic waste linked to cancer treatment, and hazardous pharmaceutical waste at its Normanton site, which is five times more than the 70 tonne limit.

Such was the concern at government level that health and social care secretary Matt Hancock chaired a COBRA meeting on 13 September.

Size matters

The NHS’s smaller hospitals received promising news in two parts.

The health secretary declared the era of shifting more activity into a smaller number of larger hospitals as “over” during his party conference speech – he implied this would be good news for the community hospitals beloved of rural shires; that may come as some surprise to those trying to get rid of these often inefficient facilities.

Also, a major NHS England commissioned review robustly argues for more support for smaller trusts and tells policy makers to resist the “kneejerk reaction” of closing or downgrading smaller sites as a first resort to addressing staffing shortages.

There are, however, grumblings from large teaching trusts that, in fact, they’re the ones being hard done by The System.

A continuous stream of bad news

The latest in what one HSJ reader called a “continuous stream of bad news stories”, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust are set to be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

The regulator has confirmed, following an investigation, that it is going to prosecute the trust for its handling of asbestos at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital during the refurbishment of old nursing accommodation in 2012.

The HSE began its investigation in 2015 after it was alerted to the issue by former trust employee Les Small, who – according to a tribunal hearing – was “dismissed within minutes” of raising concerns to managers.

Gender balanced boards better for patients

The chair of the Health and Care Women’s Leaders Network has called out the NHS for failing to track women’s progress in taking on senior roles.

Samantha Allen, who is also chief executive of Sussex Partnership FT, has branded the progress made by the NHS in tackling the gender pay gap as “disappointing” as there has only been 1 per cent improvement over the past five years.

In an exclusive interview with HSJ, Ms Allen said that gender balanced and diverse boards result in better and safer care, and are better for employers’ sustainability.

She also highlighted the importance of training and development in retaining staff, and said her trust has had to get creative due to the reduction in central funding.

Hancock’s drop in the ocean

The NHS is – apparently – being weaned off winter bailout funding, which has often come too late to extract best value and make any real difference to performance.

At the Tory party conference, Matt Hancock announced an additional £240m would be put into local authority budgets. He said the money would fund packages of care to prevent older people from going into hospital unnecessarily, and getting people home quickly when medically fit to leave.

Labour described it as a “drop in the ocean” that will do little to address a “severe crisis in social care”.

Health leaders were pleased though, with Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, saying it would be “strongly welcomed by trusts”.

MPs need an NHS jargon buster

A new survey has revealed that instead of standing for integrated care partnerships, ICP could better be used to describe idiom confused Parliamentarians.

Nearly a third of MPs said they did not understand new care model jargon, with the majority calling for the NHS to simplify its language.

New research shared exclusively with HSJ found that 30 per cent of MPs did not understand what an “integrated care system” is and 34 per cent what “accountable care systems” were.

It is clear that many MPs find the acronym heavy vernacular of the NHS a hard slog, a view shared by many of the public as well.

As one of the largest organisations in the world, providing very complex care, it is natural the NHS would evolve its own technical language.

But with the NHS going through a major reconfiguration of how it provides services, it is vital that the public and patients understand what it is doing. Otherwise the risk is it will alienate the public.